- The Washington Times - Monday, June 17, 2019

China’s government doubled down on its support for Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Monday, as massive protests continued to grow against her in Hong Kong, where a mounting political crisis is testing Beijing’s vow to respect the former British colony’s quasi-autonomy.

“The Central Government gives full recognition to and will continue its firm support for the Chief Executive and the [Special Administrative Region] government in carrying out their work according to law,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said at a press conference in Beijing.

China refers to Hong Kong as the Special Administrative Region, or SAR.

Beijing’s foray into the protests gripping Hong Kong came after demonstrators there spent the weekend demanding Ms. Lam’s ouster over her handling of controversial extradition legislation that would have allowed mainland China expanded access to fugitives in Hong Kong.

The legislation is backed by Beijing and Ms. Lam had triggered outrage in Hong Kong by initially supporting it, before suspending the proposed legislation amid mounting protests over the weekend.

With that as a backdrop Monday, Mr. Kang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, suggested that Hong Kong authorities would be justified in cracking down on the demonstrations, amid allegations that some protests had turned violent over the weekend.

“[Beijing] strongly condemns the violent behavior,” Mr. Kang told reporters in the Chinese capital. “We firmly support the police in lawfully punishing the perpetrators and safeguarding the rule of law and social order and security in Hong Kong.”

On June 12, 72 people were reportedly injured when police clashed with protestors. Man-Kei Tam, director of Amnesty International Hong Kong, said the excessive response from police is fueling the tensions.

State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a press conference on June 12 that it’s important for the Hong Kong government to respect the right for people to peacefully protest.

“We, obviously, would like to encourage all sides to exercise restraint and to refrain from violence,” Ms. Ortagus said. “Of course, we think that these peaceful protests are incredibly important.”

The extradition bill came about after a 20-year-old Hong Kong man killed his girlfriend in Taiwan. After the man told Hong Kong police the details, a year later, the Hong Kong government used the case to propose the extradition bill.

Mr. Kang, meanwhile, suggested that the government in Beijing is bracing for the Trump administration to seize on the protests in Hong Kong as reason to criticize China when President Trump meets with President Xi Jinping at the G20 Osaka Summit later this month.

“If anyone attempts to wantonly criticize China’s domestic affairs, including the affairs of the Hong Kong SAR and even attempt to use them as an excuse to interfere in China’s internal affairs with prejudice instead of evidence, our position is firm,” the foreign ministry spokesman said. “We are resolutely opposed to that.”

This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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